an array of herbs and spices on the table

How to Use a Variety of Herbs and Spices

We have an interesting riff today on the idea of a progressive jackpot.  Of course, we all associate progressive jackpots with the great slots on offer here at Jackpot Capital online casino.  Still, the term “progressive” also implies a developing improvement or expertise.

Working from Home Does Have Many Benefits

Now that there are still closures and lockdowns because of the corona virus, more and more people are spending more and more time at home.  In addition to a large increase in the number of gamers playing online casino games here at Jackpot Capital casino, a large number of people, especially in developed economies, are working from home.  After work, we used to go out to eat quite often but nowadays we are eating at home much more often.

As restaurants have closed, people are being “forced” to prepare and eat meals at home.  We would like you to think of cooking as a kind of progressive jackpot in which you can expand your horizons and develop a taste for more than hamburgers and pizza!

What are the Main Parts of a Home Cooked Dish?

There are two basic elements to any home cooked dish.  The first are the primary ingredients which may be a fish or meat product, pasta, or a combination of ingredients as in soup.  The second, and equally as important as the first, are the seasonings that enhance flavor and palatability.

The term “seasonings” really refers to herbs, spices, and condiments.  In this article, we will not speak about ketchup, mustard, soy sauce, barbecue sauce or other condiments.  We will, however, talk about herbs and spices!  If we could only enlarge our variety of herbs and spices, our food would taste better, we would have a more rounded home cuisine, and we would better appreciate the many cuisines we find around the world.

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What are Herbs and Spices?

There is a highly technical side to what is an herb and what is a spice.  We can simplify it by saying that herbs and spices are:

  1. Green leafy plants like parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram, and others.  We can use these in their fresh form or as dried herbs.  Foods that we make with herbs are often called “savory”.
  2. Spices are the ingredients that “spice up” a dish.  These are usually sold in a ground state although in some places it is possible to buy the whole berry, nut, or root and grind it yourself.

A key element in learning to use herbs and spices in home cooking is that it often takes developing a taste for them.  A lot of people like oregano in pizza sauce but would never dream of adding it to a chicken dish.  In Arabic cooking, they use cinnamon as a spice in main courses including in meat dishes while in the West we associate cinnamon with sweet pastries.

You my never learn to like cinnamon in a roast beef dish!  Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to experiment with unusual combinations that are part of a recognized and even famous national or ethnic cuisine.

Herbs and Spices are Healthy Additions to Food

People have known for many centuries that certain herbs and spices have medicinal uses as well as cooking uses.  Some herbs and spices have anti-oxidants which help in our overall health and anti-inflammatory benefits that alleviate if not cure such degenerative diseases as arthritis and gastritis.

In this article, we are looking at herbs and spices as a way to enhance the taste, aroma, and color of homemade dishes so that we feel less imposed upon by not being able to go out to eat!  We also feel that as we learn more about the use and many varied flavors of herbs and spices, we will come to enjoy cooking more, to enjoy homemade foods more, and will be more able to fill the time we have at home.

Let’s look at a few famous cuisines and the herbs and spices they use.

Italian Cuisine

We find that French cuisine is more famous but Italian is possible the best known to people in North America.

The most famous Italian dishes are pizza and spaghetti but there are many variations of both of these dishes.  We suggest using more garlic in homemade sauces.  We also recommend experimenting with many different leafy herbs in any pasta dish.  Spaghetti Bolognese can be the same old same old but if you add basil or rosemary sprigs to the dish it will change the dish in exciting ways.

Parsley, in the West, is usually considered a garnish but it is an important ingredient in Italian cooking as is cilantro.  Parsley has a sharp but not spicy flavor and cilantro has a very distinctive flavor.  It takes time to get used to these new flavors in familiar dishes but it is well worth it!

Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.  Homemade pesto is a fabulous addition to any meal!  It sounds expensive but a little goes a long way so it isn’t nearly as expensive as the ingredient list might make it seem.

Mexican Cuisine

Mexican cuisine is a lot more than tacos and refried beans.  Mexican cuisine uses allspice in many dishes.  Allspice has a full flavor that seems to combine cinnamon, nutmeg (which Julia Child once denounced on her cooking show), ginger, and cloves.  Either of these spices are good as they are and in combination with each other.

Mole (pronounced mo-lay) is a traditional Mexican sauce that has many variations but the primary mole sauce uses spices such as cloves, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, and thyme combined with dark chocolate!

Chinese Cuisine

Who doesn’t love Chinese food?  Chinese food uses every herb and spice under the sun in a wide variety of flavors.  Hot and sour soup, for example, uses copious amounts of cilantro!  Without the complementary flavor of the cilantro, this soup is just another soup!

Middle Eastern Cuisine

This way of cooking covers all of North Africa plus southern Italy, Greece, Lebanon, and certain areas of Israel.  Olive oil is the primary flavor in Middle Eastern cooking but it is not by far the only flavor.  Parsley, cilantro, cumin, turmeric, garlic, and lemon juice are all used in abundance as seasonings and flavorings.

As you already know, these are but four of hundreds of cuisines.  The gist of this article is to encourage you to experiment with herbs and spices that you haven’t used before.  Some experiments many end with a one time and out attitude while other experiments will prove so successful that you will incorporate them in your cooking going forward!

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And, last but surely not least, thus great comedy routine about herbs and spices from the incomparable Michael McIntyre.

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